Red Bank police officer sues city for race-based discrimination

Red Bank police officer sues city for race-based discrimination

August 25th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Document: Officer Cooper's complaint

Officer Cooper's complaint

Harry Burnette, Chattanooga labor and employment law attorney

A Red Bank police officer is suing the city for race-based discrimination in promotions.

Officer Isaac Cooper also claims he's being retaliated against for helping expose police misconduct by the city's former chief.

Cooper filed the suit Tuesday in Hamilton County Chancery Court.

The suit alleges that Cooper, a 59-year-old black man with 36 years experience in policing, was passed over for promotion to detective in the department's major crimes unit in favor of a younger, less-experienced white officer.

The documents also claim the discrimination arose from his speaking out, along with other officers, about allegations of police misconduct by former Chief Larry Sneed.

"I think they are inter-related," said Harry Burnette, Cooper's attorney.

Both Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey and police spokesman Sgt. Dan Knight said Wednesday they had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment until contacting the city attorney, who is out of town this week.

The lawsuit does not specify damages, and Burnette said he leaves that up to the court. He added that there are no plans to file a similar suit in federal court.

Officers Rebecca Chauncey and Bradley Hanon have separate $1.5 million lawsuits pending in both federal and Chancery Court against the city, claiming civil rights violations and asking for a judicial review of Dorsey's handling of the officers.

Chauncey and Hanon complained to the City Council about Sneed's actions involving another officer's car wreck and alleged illegal detention of a woman by another officer outside Red Bank.

In both instances, Chauncey and Hanon claim Sneed covered up or violated procedure to protect other officers.

Hanon's lawsuit claims that Sneed moved him to another shift and put him under supervision of an officer that Hanon believed would retaliate against him. Hanon's lawsuit says the city should have protected him from Sneed's actions.

Hanon resigned from the department as a result.

After Dorsey fired Sneed in July 2010, Chauncey was suspended after she allowed a bail bondsman to force his way into an elderly couple's home without a warrant. She was later fired for the incident.

Cooper also spoke out about Sneed's actions to the City Council prior to the chief's firing.

Red Bank has 30 days to respond to the complaint.